In Arkansas, Duncan Reflects on Clinton Education Legacy

At the Little Rock airport, the Secretary checks e-mail to get speech updates for tonight's address.

At the Little Rock airport, the Secretary checks e-mail to get speech updates for tonight's address.

LITTLE ROCK—On the eve of his “Courage in the Classroom” tour, Secretary Duncan touched down this afternoon in Arkansas’s capital city and is preparing for a speech tonight on our national imperative to regain our global standing in education. Recognizing that great teachers are essential to achieving this goal, Arne will also discuss ways we can better support teachers in continually improving their skills, recognize and reward those who are most successful at this critical job, and arm parents with useful information on their children’s education.

Tonight’s lecture is part of a series put on by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and was to take place at the library and museum to the 42nd president. But when more than 1,000 people expressed interest in attending, it had to be moved to Little Rock’s convention center to accommodate the crowd.

Both as governor of Arkansas and as president, Bill Clinton was an early and active voice in the education reform movement. While in the White House, he pioneered a financial aid program that made the federal government, instead of private banks, the direct lender to college students. This year, Congress expanded the direct lending program, fully eliminating wasteful subsidies to banks and recouping billions of dollars in savings to send millions more needy students to college and invest in our nation’s community college system.

President Clinton also spurred states toward rigorous standards in elementary and secondary education and better assessments of student learning. And in the last year, under the leadership of governors and state education chiefs along with incentives from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), the movement toward higher standards has advanced considerably, with 36 states and the District of Columbia—and counting—signing on to a common set of college- and career-ready standards that they developed together. ARRA is providing $350 million to develop a set of 21st century assessments that will better measure students’ readiness for college and careers, and the Department plans to award that money to groups of states in the coming weeks.

President Clinton also passed a school-to-work law, recognizing one of the ultimate goals of education—to prepare students for careers that are rewarding to themselves and to society. The Obama administration’s education agenda continues this emphasis on preparation for the workplace, and the Department of Education has proposed regulations to ensure that career-focused college programs are providing training that leads to gainful employment for their graduates.

So, in many aspects of its education agenda, the Obama administration is building on programs and policies for students that began in the Clinton administration nearly two decades ago. (And, coincidentally, President Clinton’s education secretary, Dick Riley, also marked the back-to-school season with a bus tour.) Secretary Duncan plans in his speech tonight to salute the former president for “for his life of service to his state and his nation, and his continuing work on behalf of disadvantaged people both here and abroad.”

The Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows met the tour bus in Little Rock.

The Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows met the tour bus in Little Rock.

“He is an inspiration to people of every generation,” Arne plans to say. “He has made a difference in so many ways for so many people and yet—by all appearances—he shows no signs of slowing down. He is—in the fullest sense—a public servant whose extraordinary insights into the challenges facing our world are exceeded only by his tireless efforts to address them.”

Look for coverage of the Secretary’s remarks later this evening on the bus tour’s blog.

Massie Ritsch
Office of Communications & Outreach


  1. Michelle, thank you for your comment. Congratulations on getting this far in your college education. I wanted to share several resources we have at ED that may be helpful to you and your daughter, such as Income-Based Repayment plans for federal student loans, Federal Pell Grants, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, should you choose to work for a nonprofit or in another line of public service.

    Massie Ritsch
    Office of Communications and Outreach

  2. I would like to say thankyou to Mr. Bill Clinton, President Obama, and Secretary Duncan for continuing to address the importance of a better education. I am one of those disadvantage people that is now a sophomore college. I thought that I was going to have to just dream of going tho cllege and now it is a reality. Please keep working hard to make college more affordable to people like me. I am a single parent, I did not receive much child support over the years, I always had to work two jobs to make ends meet. Now my daughter is 22 years old, married, with two beautiful girls, and goes to college. I really regret that I was unable to help my daughter go to college, I stress a lot about how I am going to pay back my student loans when the time cones because I am disabled and as we all know that does not get us very far these days, especially seeing that we have not had an increase in living for a couple years now. I pray that things get better and after earning my Associate’s Degree in Psychology, I am really considering returning to earn my Bachelor’s Degree so that I can get into a career helping others and not just another job. I would love to work with abused women and people that are dealing with substance abuse, I will work hard to achieve my dreams. While I am achieving my dreams and goals it also proves to both my grown children that you are never too old to chase your dreams and make a career doing what you love to do and that is too help others. Thank you to all of you that work hard to send the message that education is extremely important. I just wish there was a more affordable way to earning a higher education. I look forward to graduating in April 2012 with my Associate’s Degree and returning to work on my Bachelor’s Degree, my daughter is also in college working towards her nursing degree and I wish there was more I could do to help her pay for degree but unfortunately I stress about how I am going to continue after earning my Associate’s Degree. Thanks you again from the bottom of my heart.

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